Last night the Great American was a sea of dyed black hair and inked skin. The tattooed ranks hung over the balconies and ballooned out from the stage for a great band that called it quits nearly 10 years ago: The Murder City Devils. It was a scene, sure. One woman in line for the bathroom joked that she'd forgotten to get her neck tattoo before arriving. But this was a totally different scene then you get for young, new bands. The show felt like a party, reuniting the true believers who'd lived in Seattle, the city the birthed the Devils, along with fans who'd come out at every one of the band's drunken tour stops in the late '90s. The people who looked most out of place, funny enough, were the Devils themselves, who seemed to have grown out of their delinquent-cool look, aging slightly into beards and new glasses and shirts with buttons. But musically they're still punk as hell, and having cut back the on-stage partying, they sounded twice as fierce as the first round--and just as good as last year's first reunion attempt.
I could give you a play-by-play of the setlist, tell you how good it felt to punch the air with "Rum and Whiskey," or how well Spencer Moody is still able to howl out "Press Gang" and "Idle Hands" like you're getting the stories in those songs through some invisible torture being imposed on him. But really the whole night got me drunk on nostalgia, not only for the music, which didn't offer one dud in the set, but for what was happening during those years when the Devils were proselytizing a noir punk sound haunted by Leslie Hardy's funereal keys. Last night's Murder City show made me miss only one thing more than the Devils themselves: that whole late '90s wave of Stooges-rooted bile.
Sub Pop played home to the Murder City Devils, and before we hit the 2000s too hard, the label had a small but powerful swarm of theatrically-damaged punks. One of my favorites, along with the Devils, was The Catheters (RIP).
Another good one, the Black Halos, whose "Some Things Never Fall" sounded like such the anthem at the time. Sub Pop also released discs by kinda similar, and kinda shitty, but sloppy-fun live rock 'n' roll bands like Sweden's Hellacopters and Norway's Glucifer. Then there was the heavier stoner stuff like Nebula, which brought in the lighter side of sludge with a potency.
You could almost call the late '90s/early 2000s Sub Pop's second wave of grunge. The bands took from punk and metal and added razored hooks, performed shows with the tension of fist-fights, and generally helped a whole generation of rock addicts blow out the tubes.